As a mom of two who endured a different breastfeeding journey with each child, I have some insights to share. With my first-born, I realized that hands-free breast pumps are nothing short of miraculous. However, they aren't all created equal.
Picture this – you're at a dinner party, your little one is with the sitter 🙌, and your breasts decide it's feeding time. You sneak off to the bathroom, stuff your bra with your hands-free pump and voilà, you’re back at the dinner table, enjoying your evening with your friends while pumping in public. Hands-free, hassle-free, and oh-so liberating.
But when it comes to daily use, these portable wonders sometimes can't keep up with the heavy-duty, hospital-grade pumps like Spectra or Medela. I highly recommend every breastfeeding mama own a traditional electric breast pump for everyday use (and to keep up your milk supply!) but also invest in a hands-free, wearable pump so you can live the life you want to live without missing out.
Today, we're laying out all the options as we round up the best hands-free breast pumps in the market. Let's dive into the world of quiet, under-the-bra wonders that are about to make your nursing journey a breeze while you’re on-the-go.
- What Are the Different Types of Breast Pumps?
- What is a Hands-Free Breast Pump and How Can it Help You?
- Best Hands-Free Breast Pumps for Multitasking Moms
- Top Recommendations On Which Hands-Free Breast Pump You Should Purchase
- Final Thoughts and Recommendations for Choosing and Using a Hands-Free Breast Pump
- Are Hands-Free Breast Pumps Covered by Insurance?
- Additional Resources
What Are the Different Types of Breast Pumps?
The world of breast pumps is as diverse as the moms who use them. In every mom group I’m part of the topic of “what one should I get” quickly followed by requests of side-by-side comparisons comes up monthly.
From manual to electric, from single to double, from hospital-grade to hands-free and wearable, there's a one for every need and every lifestyle. But before we dive into the details of what makes each type special, it's important to understand that each breast pump has its own unique set of functionalities and benefits (wireless, usb, apps, bluetooth!) Whether you're a working mom who needs something portable, a stay-at-home mom looking for efficiency, or a mom on-the-go who needs one that can discreetly fit in your bra, there's something for everyone.
Electric Breast Pumps
Electric Breast Pumps, or as I like to call them, “The Power Pumps”, do all the hard work for you. Just place the flanges on your breasts in a pumping bra or this handy pumping bustier, and let the machine do its thing. Most of these nowadays are considered hospital-grade, which is definitely what you’ll want to buy for efficiency and speed. You’ll find options that require the pump to be plugged into the wall – do not buy this kind – and ones with a built-in rechargeable battery.
Hands-free Breast Pumps
And then come the hands-free breast pumps. These wearable pumps are a relatively new invention in the breastfeeding world. The Willow wearable pump debuted at CES in January 2017 and the Elvie wearable pump released in September 2018. These are your faithful companions for those times when you need to pump on-the-go, in public or driving in your car, or just trying to do some chores around the house.
So, you think you're ready for an arm workout? Meet the Manual Breast Pumps. With these, you're the power source, and it's all about the squeeze action. But hey, you could be in a powerless cabin in the woods and still be able to feed your baby. Or in my case, in a foreign country realizing you forgot a part to your electric pump, and oh so thankful you brought a trusty, reliable backup.
What is a Hands-Free Breast Pump and How Can it Help You?
A hands-free breast pump, as the name suggests, grants you the freedom to multitask while pumping. So, you're no longer tethered to a wall plug, trapped in a lactation room, or struggling with cumbersome accessories. It's a small(ish) device that fits snugly in your bra and does its job quietly and efficiently. And, might I add, these pumps can be an absolute godsend when you have more than one child and can’t afford to be stuck in a chair for 20 minutes.
The Benefits of Using a Hands-Free Breast Pump
But what exactly makes these pumps a nursing mom's best friend? Let's break it down:
- Freedom to multitask: You can literally pump while making a business call, cooking dinner, or driving in your car. Take it from me, it's a game-changer!
- Silent operation: Unlike their traditional counterparts, hands-free pumps are usually whisper-quiet. So, they're perfect for those discreet pumping sessions during work, out to dinner or at social gatherings.
- Portability: These pumps are compact, lightweight, and perfect for on-the-go pumping. And, if you've ever tried pumping in a car or an airplane bathroom, you'll appreciate the convenience.
- Easy to clean: Most models are designed with fewer parts than a traditional electric pump, which means less hassle in cleaning.
Remember, though, while these pumps are incredibly convenient, they might not always be as efficient as hospital-grade ones for everyday use. It's all about finding the right balance that suits your lifestyle and nursing needs.
Factors to Compare Hands-Free Breast Pumps
And so, as we dive into comparing different models of hands-free breast pumps, here are the crucial points of consideration:
- Cleaning: Because who enjoys scrubbing tiny parts, right? The simpler the cleaning process, the higher the product scores on my scale. Not to mention, the less likely you are to lose a critical piece. Not all breast pump parts are dishwasher-safe. Be sure to read individual instructions thoroughly!
- Output/Efficiency: A pump can be sleek and silent, but if it doesn't get much milk out, it's not doing its job. So, closely examine the amount of milk each pump can extract when doing your research.
- Battery Life: There's nothing more frustrating than a pump that dies mid-session. Long-lasting battery life equals less stress and more freedom to pump anywhere, anytime.
- Sound and Noise: Ever tried to pump discreetly during a Zoom call? I have… many times. Let's talk about the importance of a quiet pump.
- Size: Smaller is better, especially when you're trying to fit a pump into a packed diaper bag or under a fitted top in public. We'll be looking at how compact and portable each model is.
- Discreetness (Fits in Bra vs. Tubes with clip on pump): I’m all about comfort and convenience. A pump that is wearable and fits in your bra means no fiddling with tubes or wires and most importantly, means you can be in public like actually at your table during a double date or in your seat at a musical (yes I did this during Moulin Rouge). We'll be comparing both types.
Remember the best hands-free breast pump for you will depend on your unique circumstances and needs.
Best Hands-Free Breast Pumps for Multitasking Moms
We reviewed 7 of the top-ranked hands-free pumps on the market.
- Elvie Double Electric Breast Pump
- Elvie Stride Breast Pump
- Momcozy S12 Pro Hands-Free Breast Pump
- Willow 3.0 Hands-Free Breast Pump
- Willow Go Hands-Free Pump
- BabyBuddha Portable and Compact Breast Pump
- Spectra 9 Plus Rechargeable Electric Breast Pump
- Option 1: Manage the process yourself.
- Option 2: Work with a full-service breast pump provider.
- Cleaning: With only five parts to clean, Elvie Double Electric keeps the hassle of maintenance to a minimum.
- Output/Efficiency: 220 mmHg
- Battery Life: Offering up to three hours of pumping on a single charge, the battery life of the Elvie Double Electric is praiseworthy.
- Sound and Noise: Noted for its quiet operation, the Elvie Double Electric allows for discrete and comfortable pumping experiences.
- Size: The compact design of Elvie Double Electric ensures it won't be a burden in your handbag.
- Discreetness: This pump is designed to fit in a bra, making it a true hands-free device and increasing its wearability.
- Cleaning: The Elvie Stride has 5 parts to clean by hand or in the top rack of the dishwasher.
- Output/Efficiency: 270 mmHg
- Battery Life: The Stride enjoys a battery life that can last for multiple sessions, about 2 hours, enhancing its portability.
- Sound and Noise: The Elvie Stride operates at a low noise level, ensuring your pumping sessions can stay more private.
- Size: Compact and easy to carry, the Elvie Stride is designed for on-the-go moms.
- Discreetness: The Stride seamlessly fits into a bra, however the charging port is exterior and connects to the cup with an extra long tube. You can clip the charging port to your pants in order to pump on the move.
- Cleaning: The Momcozy S12 Pro, has 5 easy-to-disassemble parts. These parts are handwash only.
- Output/Efficiency: 280 mmHg
- Battery Life: With a battery that can last for 5 to 6 pumping sessions, or 140 minutes, the S12 Pro offers moms the freedom to pump a whole day out when they need.
- Sound and Noise: Praised for its quiet output, the S12 Pro ensures discreet pumping sessions.
- Size: Its compact design makes the S12 Pro a non-invasive addition to your carry bag.
- Discreetness: The S12 Pro fits in a flexible bra, no wires, no tubes.
I used the original, first-generation Willow with Caden, my first child in 2020.
- Cleaning: The Willow 3.0 features a simplistic design, making the cleaning process straightforward and less of a chore. With only 3 parts to clean – the flange, the flextube and the reusable milk container. And the best part? They are all dishwasher safe.
- Output/Efficiency: 240 mmHg
- Battery Life: With a battery life that can last for 5 pumping sessions, Willow 3.0 provides an full day of pumping with over 2 hours of operation.
- Sound and Noise: Known for its whisper-like operation, this model offers discreet pumping sessions, though its definitely not silent.
- Size: The compact design of the Willow 3.0 makes it a convenient addition to any carry bag.
- Discreetness: Larger than it's sister pump, the Willow Go, you'll definitely need a bra made to fit this pump and a roomier shift to go over it.
I used this pump with Willow, my second child – not to be confused with the name of this pump ha!
- Cleaning: Even though the Willow Go has a slightly complex design, its parts are easily disassembled for cleaning. There are 5 parts required to be cleaned with the Willow Go, all of which can be placed in the top rack of the dishwasher.
- Output/Efficiency: 280 mmHg
- Battery Life: The battery life on Willow Go lasts for 4 to 5 sessions, or about 2 hours making it great for a full day out.
- Sound and Noise: Quiet in operation, the Willow Go keeps your pumping sessions private and unobtrusive.
- Size: Its small and portable design makes the Willow Go an ideal choice for traveling moms.
- Discreetness: The Willow Go fits comfortably in a bra and features a tube-free design, providing flexibility and convenience in wearability.
- Cleaning: BabyBuddha's components are easy to disassemble, simplifying the cleaning process and saving valuable time.
- Output/Efficiency: 320 mmHg
- Battery Life: This pump only works up to an hour on a single battery charge.
- Sound and Noise: The operation of the BabyBuddha is not the most discreet out of this bunch.
- Size: As the name suggests, BabyBuddha is highly portable and compact, making it a perfect travel companion. It's smaller than the size of an iPhone.
- Discreetness: The design allows for easy clip-on to your pants or a lanyard for hands-free pumping, but it utilizes traditional tubing and flanges, which don't allow for privacy or as easy movement. There are several hacks you can find online of moms who have adapted this to work with Freemie cups instead of traditional flanges that can fit within your bra.
- Cleaning: Spectra 9 Plus parts are straightforward to disassemble, making cleaning of its 4d parts a breeze.
- Output/Efficiency: 260 mmHg
- Battery Life: The rechargeable feature of Spectra 9 Plus ensures about 3 pumping sessions of battery life (about 1.5 hours).
- Sound and Noise: The operation noise is quieter than a traditional electric breast pump, but gets louder over time.
- Size: This is bulkier than the BabyBuddha, about the size of 2 iPhones stacked together.
- Wearability: While it uses tubes, the clip-on design of Spectra 9 Plus attaches to the bra or top of your pants for a hands-free pumping experience. Note though that this uses traditional flanges, so you won't have complete privacy and ability to move freely.
Top Recommendations On Which Hands-Free Breast Pump You Should Purchase
Here's our results! We've ranked each of these products from from 1-7 (1 being the “best”) and tallied up the results. Our best in class for each category is listed below the table.
Easiest to Clean
Willow 3.0 Hands-Free Breast Pump. This pump only has three parts to clean keeping things simple and easy.
Generates the Most Output
BabyBuddha. This one's a real contender! Its performance matches a hospital-grade pump with an output of 320mmHg, it packs power delivering more milk in less time.
Elvie Double Electric Breast Pump. This one is known for its whisper-like operation. It operates almost silently, allowing for a private and unobtrusive pumping experience, even in public places.
Longest Battery Life
Elvie Double Electric Breast Pump: This one takes the crown with a battery life that lasts up to three hours on a single charge. That's quite impressive!
Willow Go Hands-Free Breast Pump: I used this with Willow and loved it. It fits seamlessly into your bra, and its whisper-like operation keeps things discreet. Plus, it has a great battery life, which is always a win in my book.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations for Choosing and Using a Hands-Free Breast Pump
What Are the Most Important Factors to Consider When Purchasing?
So, at the end of the day, what really matters when you're on the hunt for the perfect hands-free breast pump? It's important to keep several factors in mind. And remember, every woman's experience is unique. So, what works for one might not work for another.
Which Hands-Free Breast Pumps Have the Best User Reviews and Ratings?
When it comes to user reviews and ratings, Willow 3.0 and Elvie are often hailed as the top performers. Willow 3.0, with its minimal cleaning needs and efficient pumping, is a favorite among busy moms. I regret not making the investment in the Willow 3.0 – while I was thankful for the Willow Go, and its performance was consistent, I desired less parts to clean. Elvie, on the other hand, is praised for its silent operation and smart features, allowing moms to pump in peace without any disruption, unlike a traditional pump.
How Do You Ensure Optimal Efficiency and Comfort?
But, let's get down to brass tacks. To begin, hands-free breast pumps do have a bit of a learning curve to them. To ensure optimal efficiency and comfort, it's important to follow some tried and true tips.
First, make sure the breast shield fits properly and is comfortable. This is a MAJOR tip I can’t underscore enough. You must measure your nipples to make sure you have the right flange size or it will affect output. (Pro tip, sizing is in mm!) Second, keep an eye on the suction level. It should be set to mimic a baby's natural sucking rhythm and not cause discomfort.
Regularly cleaning the pump parts can help ensure smooth operation and prevent potential milk contamination. While on-the-go I loved using these pump wipes. Additionally, it's crucial to understand the different stimulation and expression modes of a breast pump. Most breast pumps have two settings, a stimulation mode and an expression mode. The stimulation mode mimics the way a baby begins to nurse, with a short, fast sucking pattern. The expression mode (or “letdown” mode) is the main setting for extracting milk and has a longer, more adjustable suction. The expression mode allows you to efficiently and comfortably express milk while using a hands-free breast pump.
Lastly, invest in a quality nursing bra, like the Everything Bra from Bodily. These are a splurge, but totally worth the hype.
Are Hands-Free Breast Pumps Covered by Insurance?
Good news! Some insurance companies do cover the cost of hands-free breast pumps. That's right, you might be able to get your hands-free pumping companion without breaking the bank. However, the extent of coverage varies from one insurance provider to another. Some might only cover a basic model, while others might cover more advanced models on the market. So, how do you navigate this often confusing world of insurance claims? You have two options.
Option 1: Manage the process yourself.
- First, get in touch with your insurance company to find out what they cover. Don't shy away from asking specific questions about the type of pumps covered and the reimbursement process.
- Second, get a prescription from your doctor specifying the need for a breast pump. This can significantly smooth your interaction with the insurance company.
- Lastly, buy from an approved provider (if your insurance requires it), keep all receipts, and complete the necessary paperwork for reimbursement.
Option 2: Work with a full-service breast pump provider.
- Research full-service online breast pump providers, and select the one that carries the breast pump option you are interested in.
- Submit your information so they can check your insurance benefits and obtain the prescription from your doctor.
- Wait to hear what your benefits are then make your purchase.
I did option 2 with both my kids to purchase a hands-free breast pump because it's so convenient and makes the process easy! I really enjoyed my experience purchasing my pump from Aeroflow. I found the customer service super responsive and helpful!
And voila! With a little bit of homework and some patience, you could potentially save a significant amount of money. But remember, this is just a general guide. Always consult with your insurance provider for the most accurate information. For further reading and resources on breastfeeding and using a breast pump, I highly recommend the following:
- La Leche League International (Website: llli.org): This organization provides a wealth of information about breastfeeding and breast pumping. They offer a variety of resources, from articles to webinars, all aimed at supporting breastfeeding mothers.
- Kellymom (Website: kellymom.com): This website is run by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and offers evidence-based information on breastfeeding, breast milk, and breast pumping. It's an invaluable tool for new moms.
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger: This book is a comprehensive guide to breastfeeding that covers everything from the basics to more advanced topics.
- Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher: This book provides tips and tricks for successful breastfeeding and pumping.
- Medela's Breastfeeding University (Website: medelabreastfeedingus.com): These online classes cover a variety of topics related to breastfeeding and pumping and are a helpful resource for moms at all stages of their breastfeeding journey.
Remember, you're not alone in this journey, and there are plenty of resources out there to help you navigate the world of breastfeeding and pumping.